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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Dec 11, 2009


I just keep editing this post - can't leave it alone.....sorry if I'm confusing anybody....and thanks for the e-mails that you've sent in response to my various drafts.....

What I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled.
To cast aside the weight of facts,
and even to float a little above this difficult world.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing,
that the light is everything.
I want to believe I am looking into the white fire of a great mystery.
And I do.
Mary Oliver

The heavy is the root of light.
Tao Te Ching

It can get a little windy out in the current popular-culture-world of Yoga. There are Yoga franchises and Yoga stars and Yoga fame. There are advertisements for Naked Yoga and advertisements to practice so you can "Get a Bikram Butt". There are size 0 Yoga pants that cost $250. (No, I am not kidding).

I occasionally get calls from people who are breathless with excitement because they just found out about a famous Yoga teacher - a "Yoga Star" - when they took a workshop or read an article. They call me because they are looking for a teacher training. They want to become a Yoga teacher as quickly as possible. I admire their enthusiasm and I get it that they are reaching for the light. But I’m not joking when I say that they are often surprised and occasionally offended when I pull them down to the ground by telling them that the first step, at least in the tradition I practice and teach, is to actually begin a solid and steady Yoga practice, sustain it over time, and work closely with a teacher. In other words, I tell them that the heavy (of practice and studentship) is the root of the light for which they are reaching.

Recently when I studied with Robert Svoboda he talked about the caution that is necessary for anybody involved in spiritual life these days. He said that it's "pretty windy out there" (in the world in general). If one becomes involved in spiritual practice - which can make one "lighter" and potentially less grounded - it is very easy to get swept up in that wind, in which case one's prana becomes uprooted and their practice can bear NO fruits. That's a big statement from a man who knows better than maybe anybody what he is talking about when it comes to prana! No fruit can come from your practice if the windiness of popular Yoga culture uproots you into either over-reaching. under-practicing, or the hurry of enthusiastic (& therefore sometimes blind) ambition. He actually said that it is best to be as relaxed as possible, to be "indolent" and certainly to refrain from grasping. And he said it is vital to have a strong teacher and to cultivate a strong and steady relationship to that teacher, somebody with whom you stay in steady and real communication. He said true studentship will provide gravity for your practice and your prana will stay rooted and grounded even when high winds, whipped up by popular culture and the media, sweep through our real and grounded Yoga world.

Due to some passing circumstances, all of the above was percolating in my psyche when I sat down to meditate this morning. It is really cold here so I put on my layers of fleece and covered myself with fleece blankets and took my seat. Right away, as I entered into the inner space of meditation, I felt the effects of the psychic wind. I felt how I had been caught up in it. It had left me feeling discouraged and with a thought that I should just quit teaching.

And then I felt a movement - a spreading pressure and warmth. Kundalini? Nope. My cat, Rasa, had come to sit with me. Rasa has a habit of burrowing under all my fleece layers, pulling the blankets with him as he goes, and ending up as a cat-fleece burrito.

I settled down a bit out of the wind and into cat gravity.

And then I thought of my friend Judith. She is beautiful, gracious, wise, not young and not famous. She really seems to live only to love and to do her work, which is service and art. She makes everything around her more beautiful. Hardly anybody outside her small community knows her or knows about her. She has no website of blog.

And I settled more fully down out of the wind and into the graciousness of gravity.

Back down on the earth again, and I sat for an extra long meditation. Great gratitude then - for the light and air and goodness at the ground of my being, and for the great good fortune of having True Teachers, both within and without, to keep me grounded when the wind gets high. And now, deep in the heavy ground of my Being, I can believe that the Light is everything. I am willing to be dazzled again.

(Rasa is still asleep under the fleece and it is 2 hours since I was sitting. That cat is not much affected by psychic wind).

1 comment:

  1. This is stellar instruction. And you are, btw, very famous to me. And to everyone who knows me, because I talk about you all the time. Shri-La and I have posed the question many times as a guiding principle: WWKD? What Would Karen Do? Ah, we can say now, she would go Sit (with her Cat). She would Be Still, even in the wind.